Manja waited for Johann to knock on the door at the same time they’d had breakfast the day before. She was anxious to know more about his plans to spend the rest of their vacation together. They’d talked through much of the night and then the phone had gone silent. She tried phoning him again to see why he was not answering after waiting past their customary morning meeting time but still the phone was engaged. Maybe the phone line was down? She quickly showered and washed her daughter then put on casual clothes for the day. It would be so much fun spending vacation with someone who knew the country. They went to the elevator and took it up to the next floor. This time she knocked on his door. As there was no answer she knocked on the door harder with increasing apprehension. Had something happened to him? That would be devastating now that she was beginning to yearn for them to be together. At last the sounds penetrated Johann’s dreams and he jumped out of bed quickly pulling on some clothes. And rushed to the door. His brain was not awake yet, so he was shocked to see Manja and Stephanie all dressed and ready for action. He was extremely embarrassed to be seen like this and mumbled his apologies. Manja shrugged and marched in with her daughter. She spied the phone on the floor. That’s why she couldn’t get through. When she’d eventually disconnected it would have cut her line but not his. He must have gone to sleep while they were talking for hours. She eyed his physique appreciatively. He was in very good shape. He mumbled his apologies, grabbed clean clothes, and headed for the bathroom. “You can order breakfast, and have it sent here,” he said quietly as he slunk into the bathroom and closed the door. She heard the sound of the shaver and the splashing of water as he took his shower emerging clean and fresh. Johann you look good this morning, but you shouldn’t have hung up on a woman when she needed to talk in the middle of the night.”
Johann chuckled. “Sorry about falling asleep and missing out on my appointment with you which I’ve been dreaming about all night and I’m sorry about looking such a fright when I opened the door this morning.”
“I think I could get used to that!” Manja laughed. “I liked the itinerary you suggested last night before you went to sleep in the middle of your report. When do we start?”
Manja liked the motel room she and Stephanie occupied in Cairns and marvelled at the tropical feel and the mountains in the distance and the trip to the Barrier Reef was spellbinding exploring it first through the glass sides of an anchored construction at the reef the boat was docked at. She tried snorkelling for the first time and the vibrant colours of coral and fish were even more in evidence under water. She wished Johann had enjoyed the experience with her but was glad he was looking after Stephanie while she luxuriated in this experience. The Aboriginal Theme Park fascinated her as they demonstrated their cultural practices and dances and the trip up to Karanda on the mountain by cable high above the jungle was spectacular and Karanda picturesque. She was having the best vacation. The Gold Coast far to the south was also impressive with its high-rise buildings and pristine white sandy beaches. She and Stephanie enjoyed swimming and sunbaking and this time Johann joined them. Johann was fascinated with her dietary care and appetite for hiking and workouts. This was something he also enjoyed. Manja liked his quiet concern for her welfare, his sharp well-informed mind and his well built and cared for body.
Johann kept in touch with his sister from the quietness of his room after activities of the day had been exhausted. Louise Marie had become increasingly concerned at the change in her brother. She wanted him to find a soul mate sharing that wish with her mother Anna. But was this the best option? A woman with a child from another man who’d abused her. A woman who was not of their community or culture and whose mother tongue was Dutch. Finally, in one of the late-night phone calls her concerns came pouring out.
“Johann you and I are close, and I love you dearly so please don’t misunderstand me. This is rather sudden. You obviously know something about this woman’s background, but it’s sudden. Ask yourself honestly, is this infatuation on your part and hers? What will happen when she must return to her family in Utrecht? How will this woman relate to our family culture? We are an amalgam of German and Australian so have our own unique ways. Will she fit in with our culture? What about your religious convictions, will she be supportive of your faith? Dad and Mom are concerned not hearing from you and trying to find out if you are well and I’m concerned about them. Either you phone them and tell them what’s going on or I’ll have to break my word to you and give them assurance you are well and just enjoying the company of this woman. Even that will make them anxious. Please phone them Johann!”
There was silence on the line for a while as Johann thought over what his sister had said. Louise Marie was distraught as she waited for his response. Finally, he spoke. “Louise Marie I’ve always valued your counsel and can see I’ve gone about this foolishly. I should have shared my joy with Dad and Mom and can’t find a reason for wanting to keep this a secret. Everything you’ve said is true and needs to be faced so as soon as we’ve finished the call I’ll phone Dad and talk with him. I was intending to suggest bringing Manja down to Barossa Valley to meet you all so you could look her over. That was part of the plan and she has indicated she’d like to see where I live and meet my family.”
“Good, you do that Johann and phone Dad now don’t put it off any longer. Manja and Stephanie can stay with me when you bring her down. Plan on that!” The phone disconnected.
Johann stared at his cell phone assembling his words. Then he punched in his home number and waited. It was rather late now but a sleepy voice answered. It was the familiar voice of his Mother Anna. “Son we’ve been so worried about you. Are you sick? Should we send someone to bring you home? Why haven’t you called us? Louise Marie says you’ve been checking in every day to give her business instructions, but you haven’t phoned us.”
In a torrent of words Johann shared the events that had transformed his life, the joy he’d experienced in his time with Manja and her daughter and when it was all over there was a minute’s silence. This time it was his Father Friederich. “Son we’d like you to come home now so we can talk about this. This is very sudden.”
“Dad I’m bringing Manja and her daughter with me for a visit.”
“No son this is not wise, we need to know more about this woman first.”
Anna Kavel took the phone off her husband. “You will come home and bring this woman and her child, and I will talk with her. A woman can read another woman like a book and I only want a life of happiness for my son. If I think you are not wise in bringing this woman I will tell both of you.”
Johann smiled. “Thank you Mother, I’ve just phoned Louise Marie and she has offered to accommodate Manja and her child.”
“You phoned Louise Marie before phoning us?”
“I knew it would be difficult for you to accommodate Manja not knowing her so thought I should check that out first Mom.”
Another silence. “Yes, you are right son.”
“Mom we will fly back to Sydney and collect things left at Rydges Hotel in storage then make the trip home.”
Johann felt happy and phoned Manja’s room to tell her she’d been invited by the family to visit and she expressed her joy at the invitation going to bed that night happily dreaming of meeting Johann’s family. She was particularly happy at the prospect of meeting Johann’s favourite sister Louise Marie.
Next afternoon they were on the way from Sydney Airport to Rydges Hotel to collect luggage left there in storage. At the reception counter the one occupying the desk asked them to wait. She produced a letter addressed to Manja in Berend’s handwriting. Manja opened the letter puzzled. How could they have received a letter from him in his own handwriting when he was in Utrecht or perhaps Amsterdam? Reading the letter, she broke out in a cry of joy. “Berend is here at the hotel and has been here for a couple of days waiting for me to return. He has given me his room number. Let’s go up now and see him. This is so unexpected, but I want him to meet you as I’ve been telling him every day what a good man you are and how you rescued me from the depression I felt when I arrived in Australia. He’s on the same floor I had a room but his is 216.” Soon they were knocking on the door and it was opened by an impressive man in his mid-thirties. Manja and Stephanie rushed inside and Manja kissed him repeatedly on both cheeks while Stephanie tugged on his pants wanting to be part of the greeting. Johann watched the reunion with happiness thinking how wonderful family was to belong to.
Finally, Manja turned holding onto her brother joyfully. “This is my brother Berend. Berend this is Johann I’ve been telling you about.”
Berend strode forward pleasantly and extended his hand welcoming him in German knowing Johann would not understand Dutch. He then turned to his sister his arm protectively around her shoulder. “Manja I have some unpleasant news to deliver. You know father has had issues with his heart well I think he needs us all with him at this time. He sent me to bring you home and I have tickets for us all to return tomorrow morning early. I’m sorry to interrupt this holiday which has accomplished all we wanted and I found it hard to take the time off to travel but you need to be there, and I could not refuse him this wish.”
Manja cried. “Is he very sick Berend? If so you should have stayed there and called me home. I would have come.”
Berend ignored the question. This is a double room Manja so you will stay with me tonight and get to sleep early. You said Stephanie didn’t travel well coming here so we need to see she is well rested. I have transportation arranged to pick us up early and take us to the airport.”
He turned to Johann and inclined courteously. “Thank you very much Johann Kavel for looking after my sister so well. You have made her very happy.”
Johann’s mind raced. The woman he’d found he wanted to spend the rest of his life with was about to leave him and return to her own country. In the back of his mind he knew that time had to come but every part of his being rebelled at the idea. “Can I see you off at the airport?”
“We’d be honoured to have you accompany us Mr Kavel and I’ve already taken the trouble to reserve you that extra seat.” Johann nodded in gratitude. He turned to Manja.
“I’m so disappointed you didn’t get to see our vineyards and the complex that feeds all our distribution points here in Australia and abroad Manja. My family were all looking forward to meeting you and Stephanie.” Berend looked away as his sister’s eyes clouded over with tears. Johann wished they’d progressed to the stage where he could enfold her in his arms. “Please can you return soon as I want you to see my home and meet my family.”
“Yes, yes! I will come when I can!”
Berend cleared his throat. “Let’s go downstairs and have your stored luggage sent up to this room Manja. Mr Kavel you will need a room for the evening if you intend to see us off in the morning. When Johann checked with reception he found all rooms had been taken by tour groups. The hotel was very apologetic in that he was such a regular customer and offered to find him a room in a nearby hotel, but they eventually agreed to allow him to sit up in the lobby during the night. He napped now and then, read a little and waited and the night seemed it would never end. But as dawn was breaking Berend, Manja and Stephanie appeared with their luggage. Berend was carrying Stephanie and Manja ran over to where Johann was sitting. “You look awful Johann didn’t you get any sleep?”
“They had no rooms available Manja so I sat here all night so I could see you off.”
Berend watched the interaction between his sister and Johann and felt a twinge of conscience. This man was obviously smitten by his sister and she about him but would it last. He already felt terrible about introducing Weber to his sister. This man would be put to a more stringent test. His sister was too precious to sacrifice to anyone who did not love and respect her for life.
At the airport Manja kissed Johann on both cheeks as they prepared to go through Immigration into the international departure area. She produced her calling card and handed it to him. “If you like you can write to me or phone Johann. I’m so happy you’ve been so patient and revealed not all men outside my family are like my late husband Weber. My stay here and Stephanie’s has been the blessing I needed so thank you.” Johann wept as he watched them disappear through the doors and into departure. He stayed a while, then took a taxi back to collect his stored luggage. He was tired and depressed as he returned to the domestic airport for a flight to Adelaide and home.
To be continued.
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